Interview with Anchorman actor and comedian David Koechner

Champ Kind returns to San Diego for three nights at the American Comedy Company

David "Whammy!" Koechner returns to San Diego this weekend.
  • David "Whammy!" Koechner returns to San Diego this weekend.

David Koechner is probably best known for playing San Diego sportscaster Champ Kind in Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy and Michael Scott's obnoxious friend Todd Packer on The Office. Personally, I'm very fond of his portrayal of gun lobbyist (and member of the Merchants of Death) Bobby Jay Bliss in Thank You for Smoking. Bliss is the kind of scum-sucker who will shrug and tell you that it's all scum, so you may as well learn to smile while you suck. That Koechner manages to make him weirdly likable is a genuine achievement.

Tonight through Saturday, he'll be appearing at the American Comedy Club in the Gaslamp. Tickets are available here.

Matthew Lickona: We're coming up on the release of Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues (December 30). How does Champ Kind feel about Ron Burgundy now?

David Koechner: Well, we all know that Champ has a huge crush on Ron. But is it a sexual affection or just a deep friendship that Champ is desperate to have?

ML: In Wake Up, Ron Burgundy, it gets pretty sexual.

DK: There you go — you saw that one. But if you're asking if that relationship comes to fruition, I will say that it's hinted at.

ML: How did sports guy Champ feel when Ron Burgundy got to audition for ESPN?

DK: I think he was happy for him, because wherever Ron goes, he usually takes his crew.

ML: Moving on to other important roles: when I came out of Piranha 3DD, I had in my notes, "David Koechner gave more to the film than the film asked of him." Piranha 3DD was not a piece of high art. Could you talk about what happens when you get a film like that? How you prepare for it, how you treat it?

DK: I keep employed.

ML: Okay

DK: The reality is, I have five kids. Sometimes, economics makes choices for you. But here's the thing I love: I do all kinds of stuff, and I embrace it. I wasn't stuck with four more films like Piranha 3DD. I went and did Anchorman 2. I did three episodes of Hannah Montana. I did a voice on Phineas and Ferb. I went to Canada and shot a film with Brent Butt. I went to Vermont and did a short film that made me cry because it was about a woman who grew up in a family where her two oldest brothers had Duchenne muscular dystrophy, and they knew they were going to die. I don't think I even got paid for that, but it was one of those things that you have to do. I did a dark thriller called Cheap Thrills that has some comedic elements.

ML: So when a casting director says, "Get me a David Koechner type," what does she mean?

DK: I don't know if she does say that. I've been blessed with many opportunities. Some turn out great; some, people might turn their noses up at; and some make me say, "Fuck yeah, I did this thing!" People think of me for two roles: Champ Kind and Todd Packer. But I started on Saturday Night Live. I get to go out and do stand up. I've been so fortunate. I've done four movies that are cult hits. There's Waiting..., which people are constantly quoting. There's Out Cold, which inspires deep affection in anybody who was 12 years old in 2000. There's another movie called Run Ronnie Run. People will still come up to me and grab their heads and say, "What the hell was that?" My job is to play for a living, and if I get to play in a lot of different arenas, so be it.

ML: About those arenas: you've got a YouTube channel, Full on Koechner. Tell me about Roy, the fat gay fellow you created on there.

DK: My buddy Jimmy Carrane and I used to be roommates in Chicago, and it was just a bit we would do to amuse ourselves. Roy has these false aspirations — he thinks he's kind of a big deal and that he's on his way somewhere in life. He's self-important because at his core, he's really wounded. But he refuses to acknowledge his own pain — he'd rather lash out at someone else than have any self-reflection.

ML: And Cheap Thrills?

DK: We shot it in 12 days on a very modest budget, and it's one of those films that just came together. It's a dark and sinister story that pulls you in and takes you along for the ride through this one night. You keep making decisions with the players, and it just gets more and more sinister. I watched it with several festival audiences, and I always thought it was a dark thriller, but people were laughing. Because there was so much tension, they had to. There are certain points in the movie where they'll take any opportunity for some kind of release.

ML: If you had to do just one arena — feature films, standup, YouTube sketches, which one would you pick?

DK: If I could pick just one thing, do it in town, and make a solid income out of it? Standup. There's nothing better than that immediacy — you having that communal experience with an audience.

ML: Tell me about this show you're bringing to town.

DK: I like to call it a Big Tent Revival show. I do a little bit of everything. I do traditional standup, and then I do character pieces. And there will be some music. If I called it a variety show, that would make it sound hokey, but it's kind of like that. There's a bit of improvisation — I like to have that organic feel to it. And I'm in show business. People know me from the movies, and they expect me to say certain lines. I'm not going to disappoint them. But I find the hardest thing for me to do is describe my show. I should probably look at some review somewhere and see what they've said.

ML: About the kids. I noticed the five kids in your bio.

DK: Yeah, I notice them every day.

ML: I have a bunch myself, and it made me wonder: do your kids think you're funny?

DK: They don't have a choice. I don't know what that means, but that's my answer.

ML: Okay.

DK: I think they do. Sometimes, when they want to punish me, they'll say, "You're not funny, Dad!" But I delight in them, and I try to let them know that I think they're funny. So it's more like a family model. We're a funny family.

ML: There's a point in my kids' lives where they start trying to make jokes. They'll be looking at me, trying to see if they're getting it right. "Is this a joke? Is this how it works?"

DK: My son, who is seven, came home last week and said, "Dad, have you heard of this book, Yellow River? Guess who wrote it: I.P. Freely." And this week, he did Seymour Butts. So I was delighted. He and I sat down for about half an hour and scrolled through jokes on the Internet, from Knock-Knock jokes to "What do you get when you cross a this with a that" jokes to space jokes to animal jokes... We were both just howling.

ML: Do you have comedians you try to make sure they know about? I made sure my kids heard Bill Cosby early on.

DK: I make every one of them do an impression of Paul Lynde. The impression goes like this: "I'm Paul Lynde." That's the whole impression. Some of them couldn't quite get it, and my wife cracked the code for them. She told them, "Just laugh and cry at the same time." They'll do that for me, because I laugh every time. And my oldest boy, he's 14. We introduced him to Airplane a couple of years ago, and he and I have watched Monty Python and the Holy Grail, things like that.

ML: Do you ever get frustrated because they don't think something's funny that you've revered all your life? When I showed my older boys Holy Grail, they were like, "Oh, okay." And I was like, "You don't understand!"

DK: Right! Like, "This is important! This is one of the most important movies in history!" He kind of enjoyed it, but not to the passionate degree that I had hoped. But I showed it to him when he was 10. I should have waited until he was 13.

ML: Final question: if you had to tell people the best way to tell you apart from Rob Corddry, what would it be?

DK: One of us is bald. It's the strangest thing — even if I'm wearing a hat, people will think I'm Rob Corddry. People will watch me do an hour of standup and then come up to me and say, "We love you in Anchorman, and we love you in Children's Hospital." And I'll say, "Well, I'm in one of them." He gets it just as much as I do. It's really weird. I don't know if we have the same style or delivery. I assume it's just the bald thing.

The American Comedy Company

818 Sixth Avenue, Downtown San Diego

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